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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Original Sin by Beth McMullen

Original Sin by Beth McMullen
Published by Hyperion ISBN 978-0401324215
Hardcover, $24.99
The timing is good for author Beth McMullen's new book-Original Sin- A Sally Sin Adventure. The story of a "wife. mother. spy", the first of a planned series, has plenty of company in popular culture. Angelina Jolie's movie Salt was an action-packed thriller, and USA Network has two popular spy TV shows- Burn Notice and Covert Affairs.

I read Original Sin on my IPad when I was down with the flu and it was the perfect one-sitting book. We first see Lucy Hamilton, loving mom to her toddler son Theo. She is married to Will, who loves his wife, son and the planet, and owns a company that develops green energy.

All seems normal, except for the fact that while Theo is in preschool, Lucy sits across the street in a coffee shop watching the school to make sure that "no one goes into Theo's school who doesn't belong there." And the fact that Lucy can "still kill an adult male twice my weight with one precisely placed punch in the chest. This is not something I tell the other moms at the playground. It simply doesn't come up that often".

So Will knows that Lucy did work for USAWMD- United States Agency for Weapons of Mass Destruction. But she wasn't a nuclear analyst, as she told him. She was a spy- named Sally Sin.

Her suburban life is turned upside down when her old handler, Simon, contacts her for a "simple chat". Simon tells her that her nemesis, Ian Blackford, who frequently kidnapped her back in the old days and whom was believed dead, actually is not. And so Lucy/Sally is dragged unwillingly back into the spy fold to protect her family, and the world.

The novel has excellent pacing, and the frequent flashbacks to Sally's spy days and her early relationship  with Will keep the story moving along. Sally and Simon's banter is terrific, and the book just keeps you turning the pages to see what happens next.

Original Sin has the possibility of becoming as successful as Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series. It is not as humorous, it's more action-oriented, but I think it will appeal to the same reader. And the cover is adorable- it reminded me of my old favorite, "Girl from U.N.C.L.E" with Stephanie Powers. I wanted to be The Girl from U.N.C.L.E when I was a little girl; now I think I want to be Sally Sin!

rating 4 of 5 stars

Mr. Popper's Penguins

Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard & Florence Atwater
Published by Little, Brown Books for Children ISBN 978-0316058432
Paperback, $6.99
My Kindle cover

My favorite book from second grade was Mr. Popper's Penguins. I loved the story of the housepainter obsessed with the Drake expedition at South Pole who ends up receiving a penguin from the explorer himself.

After he gets another penguin, they mate and soon there is a litter of penguins, all living in the Popper household. It costs more than a housepainter's salary to care for all of them so they come up with a novelty act and take it on the road.

The antics of the lovable penguins, with the delightful illustrations in the book, made me smile, even as I re-read the book as an adult.  Mrs. Popper was a good sport, not only putting up with the penguins in her house, but becoming an active part of Mr. Popper's Penguins act.

This is a great story for young children; it's sweet and funny, and it will take them away to a more innocent time. The Popper family love and respect each other, and there is enough action to keep them interested. I love the description of the penguins performing their act on stage.

The book was re-released timed to the new movie starring Jim Carrey. They updated the book, which kind of makes me sad. I would have loved a faithful adaptation of this book that I am so fond of it that my Kindle cover is Mr. Popper's Penguins, from a Spoonful of Chocolate.

This is the book I have given my sons, nieces, nephews; it makes the perfect gift for any child. And you can't go wrong giving them the gift of reading.

rating 5 of 5 stars

The Twisted Thread by Charlotte Bacon

The Twisted Thread by Charlotte Bacon
Published by Voice ISBN 978-1401341503
Trade paperback, $14.99
Charlotte Bacon's The Twisted Thread started out so strong for me. The story of a popular teen girl found dead in her room at the prestigious Armitage boarding school, and the mystery of how she died and who took her newborn baby had so much potential, with writing that was so perceptive, such as this:
"Being responsible for the transmission of American literature to four classes of intelligent, slouching adolescents sometimes struck Madeline as a task more ludicrous than ending dependence on foreign oil."
"She hated this sensation, the knowledge, only half-admitted most of the time, that the world could crack wide at any moment, and that you would never, despite wit, fiscal prudence, or luck be entirely prepared for what might happen next."
I liked the characters of Madeline, the young teacher at the school and Matt, a police officer who attended Armitage years ago. I also liked Matt's cop partner, Vernon, the formerly-overweight, now-health-conscious family man. If the story had focused on these characters and the mystery of what happened to the dead girl, it would have been a pretty good book.

Unfortunately, the author introduces too many characters, along with their back stories, which instead of deepening the plot, at times took away from it and confused me. There is the maintenance man, his mother, his boss, many, many teachers at the school, and a clique of mean girls. It was hard to keep characters straight, and many times I had to stop and ask myself, "wait- who is this again?"

There were too many subplots that went nowhere. As I got to the end of the story, some of the threads came together and the resolution was ultimately satisfying, but the author would have had a much better book if she concentrated on only a few of the voices. She had a lot to say about privilege, class, family and the culture of private schools, but it sometimes got drowned out by too much noise.

rating 3 of 5 stars

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

How to Love an American Man by Krissy Gasbarre

How to Love an American Man by Kristine Gasbarre
Published by Harper Collins ISBN 978-0-06-199739-6
Trade paperback, $14.99

A few weeks ago, I was invited to a luncheon celebrating the upcoming release of Krissy Gasbarre's novel, How to Love an American Man- A True Story.

The author is a bright and bubbly lady whose smile lit up the upstairs room at Fresco by Scotto, where the luncheon was held. Amy Bendell, the editor at Harper Collins who help shepherd this beautiful book, and Lisa Sharkey, Senior Vice President Creative Marketing Development at Harper, both said wonderful things about Gasbarre and her book, and both were drawn to the grandmother element of the story.

Gasbarre moved back home to DuBois, Pennsylvania following the death of her beloved grandfather, the head of her loving family. She was a little lost, professionally and personally. The man she loved moved to Bahrain, and she was losing interest in her job as a nanny in Italy.

When Grandpa dies, he left behind a bereft wife. Krissy always admired her grandparents' marriage, and now she had the opportunity to spend time with Grandma and ask her how she and Grandpa made their marriage work. Could Grandma give her advice that she could use?

One thing that Grandma tells her is "if you are really concerned with finding somebody to love then I am telling you that you have to stop focusing on yourself." When Krissy can't believe that her grandma is telling her to put aside her needs for a man, Grandma responds "if you love someone, that's what you do. It comes naturally."

Grandma goes on,
"A friend, Krissy. A man needs someone who supports his work. Someone who hugs him and means it when he walks in the door at night.  You want to be with a really good man? You have to have courage. And patience. Lots of patience."

Grandma's advice borne of years of practice is compelling. Her husband was a successful, charismatic, hardworking, business owner, and it wasn't always easy being married to him. Krissy listened to her grandma's advice and stories and tried to process it. Is this advice still relevant in today's world?

Krissy was set-up on a date with a highly eligible oral and facial surgeon, Chris. Chris was handsome, smart and building his practice. Their first date did not go well, and Krissy next ended up dating Tucker, a college student six years her junior.

Her relationship with Tucker had its ups and downs, and after a disastrous weekend fishing trip that Gasbarre describes in brutally honest detail, ends badly. I can't imagine there is a woman out there who can't relate to that section of the book.

Gasbarre is also honest about her grandma. She is a bit of prickly woman, and I'm glad that Gasbarre resisted the temptation to portray her grandma as a sainted lady. She often tried the patience of her children and Krissy.

The life of a widow is tough, and Gasbarre does a masterful job in her description of it. I really felt the ache of Grandma's loneliness, and it is a feeling that many of us who have long, happy marriages will sadly have to face at some point in our lives. The scenes where Krissy and her grandma are the only single ladies in a group of marrieds at parties and family gatherings touches on the loneliness that people can feel lost in a crowd.

Gasbarre's writing is wonderful and heartfelt; she chooses the perfect phrase and words, and she balances Grandma's life and advice with her own journey to find her place in the world. The titles of the chapters are Grandma's words of advice- "Know When To Say I Love You" "Support His Work" "Get Your Own Life Settled".

If I have any criticism, it is that Gasbarre compares her feelings about her troubled relationships with her grandma's loneliness at losing her husband. I don't think you can compare the loss of a husband of sixty years with the loss of relationship of a few months; there is no comparison. Someday she will realize that.

How to Love an American Man has been compared to Eat, Pray, Love, but I find this to be a stronger book. Telling Grandma's story alongside Krissy's search for a loving relationship really touched my heart, and makes it less self-centered, as has been the (justified) knock against Eat, Pray, Love. 

This book will appeal to many women- those who have love and lost, as well as those looking for lasting love.
rating 4 of 5 stars

Gone With the Wind Readalong Part II

We are now into Part II of the Heroine's Bookshelf Gone With the Wind Readalong and the action has moved to Atlanta, where Scarlett has gone to stay with her dead husband's sister Melanie and his Aunt Pittypat.

I enjoy the description of the bustling young city of Atlanta, with its comparisons to the young widow Scarlett. Both are young and vibrant, and once Scarlett sees the excitement of the big city, she has no interest in going back to quiet, rural Tara. I found it interesting that the Atlanta of today is similar to the Atlanta of those days: a place that draws many people from other places in the South, the hub of activity. I liked the description of how the railroad lines grew out of Atlanta to connect the south outward.

We get to see more of Melanie, one of my favorite characters in the novel. At first, Scarlett sees Melanie as meek and mousy, but in Atlanta Scarlett sees another side to Melanie; she is unfailingly kind to everyone, and "always saw the best in everyone and remarked kindly upon it."

But we also see Melanie's strong moral sense of right and wrong. She is angry with the men who are more than able to serve in the army, but choose not to. She takes up for Rhett Butler, and when no one in Atlanta society will allow him in their homes, Melanie invites him to hers because he returned her wedding ring to her.

Her relationship with Rhett is one of the most interesting ones in the novel, and I think it is because they are two of the most honest characters; what you see is what you get, as opposed to Scarlett and Ashley, who try to hide their true selves, even from themselves.

The bazaar scene is fascinating. I felt like I was dropped into the scene and was eavesdropping. Mitchell does an incredible job placing the reader in this world. The descriptions of the clothes, the food, the music, the dancing- it all springs to life off the page.

I found what Rhett said about empires intriguing- "There's good money in empire building. But, there's more in empire wrecking." I think many people and corporations (Haliburton, anyone?) would agree. Some things never change.

The war has started to take its toll on the South. The scene at the telegraph office, where the lists of the dead are read is heartbreaking for many families, and it carries an emotional punch. I was particularly saddened by the deaths of the Tarleton brothers; how awful to lose them all.

When Ashley is taken prisoner during the war, he is given an opportunity to be released. If he renounces the Confederacy and goes to fight the Indians out west, he will be released. Scarlett does not understand why he won't do it and Melanie furiously turns on Scarlett saying that she would never be able to look at Ashley if he did that. Scarlett asks Rhett if he would do it and he says "of course". This scene really sets up how the character of these four people will influence what happens after the war.

Onward to Part III....

Master Class with Tyne Daly

Tyne Daly is one of the most talented actresses working today and I was so thrilled that she was going to be back on Broadway in a revival of Terence McNally's play, Master Class.

The play tells the story of opera diva Maria Callas and a class that she taught young opera singers. I thought it was strictly a dramatic play, but it was very funny. Daly interacts with the audience, and one particular moment after she discusses how people need "a look", she tells someone that that person "doesn't have a look" and then she asks the man sitting behind the person why he is laughing because "he doesn't have a look either" elicited much laughter from the audience.

Daly is perfect in the role, playing Callas at a time in her life when her opera career was essentially over. She is imperial, and her interactions with the students are sharp. Alexandra Silber plays a young, exuberant student. She reminded me of a bounding puppy dog, and she was terrific. She played off Daly so well.

Garrett Sorenson plays a garrulous tenor with confidence and swagger. His character did not have much technical expertise, but the reaction he arouses in Callas is emotional. His voice is spectacular.

Sierra Boggess shows up in a formal gown, something that Callas harangues her for. Her character is at first terribly intimidated, but she has a confrontational scene with Daly at the end that is powerful.

Daly has two monologues that give insight into her rise to fame and her turbulent relationship with millionaire Ari Onassis, who dumped Callas to marry Jackie Kennedy. Daly's performance in those two monologues is amazing and emotionally draining; you could hear a pin drop in the theater during them.

There are only two weeks left in the run of the show, and I highly recommend that you see this show. Daly is magnificent, and her interactions with the rest of the cast elevate their performances as well.
Alexandra Silber signing after the show

Monday, August 15, 2011

Nothing Daunted by Dorothy Wickenden

This is my review of Dorothy Wickenden's Nothing Daunted, which ran on auburnpub.com on August 12, 2011.
In 2008, author Dorothy Wickenden found a folder that contained letters from her grandmother, Dorothy Woodruff. Her grandmother had written these letters in 1916-1917, when she and her best friend, Ros Underwood, lived and taught school in Elkhead, Colo.
The letters became the basis for Wickenden’s fascinating narrative non-fiction book, “Nothing Daunted: The Unexpected Education of Two Society Girls in the West.”
Dorothy and Ros grew up in Auburn, daughters of prominent citizens. Their ancestors were “entrepreneurs and lawyers and bankers, who had become wealthy during the Industrial Revolution.” Dorothy’s grandfather lived next door to William Seward on South Street.
The girls graduated from Smith College, one of the first women’s colleges in the country. Following graduation, they made a “grand tour” of Europe, and spent a great deal of time in Paris.
Upon their return from Europe, it was assumed that they would marry prominent men and spend their time doing charity work in Auburn. But the ladies did not find any men who interested them enough to marry, and when they heard about a small school in Elkhead, Colo. looking for two teachers, the adventurous ladies went westward.
Ferry Carpenter was a young Princeton graduate who had also earned a law degree from Harvard. He was drawn to the west, and longed to be a homesteader. He ended up in Colorado, and wanted to start a school for the families who lived in Elkhead.
Carpenter had an ulterior motive behind starting the school. There were few single women in the rugged area, and he thought that if he opened a school, he would be able to hire a few lovely single women to teach, who may fall in love with eligible Elkhead bachelors, marry, and stay for good.
The section that describes Carpenter and some of the men reviewing the teachers’ applications is charming and funny. Carpenter asked the applicants to send photos of themselves, and the men reviewed the photos, choosing Dorothy and Ros for their beauty as well as their brains.
Neither Ros nor Dorothy had a teaching degree, but they were well-educated. They took their newfound lifestyle in stride, sharing a bed in the small home of the Harrison family, riding horses through blizzards daily to get to school, attending dances and potluck suppers for entertainment, and wandering through the countryside with Ferry Carpenter and his friend Bob Perry.
They became good teachers, although teaching the children to cook was a bit of a challenge for them. Everyone in the community loved them, and they cherished their students. The families were mostly poor, and Dorothy and Ros’ families and friends in Auburn sent huge packages for Christmas, filled with gifts and foodstuffs for the students, as well as presents for Carpenter, Perry and the Harrison family.
The chapter “The Girls From Auburn” is of special interest to people from our area. It opens with a lovely picture of Dorothy and Ros in a canoe on Owasco Lake. Dorothy’s family is described in detail, and many of the names will be familiar, including the Beardsleys, Dorothy’s maternal family.
The reader is immersed in the Auburn of the era: Dorothy going to the Burtis Opera House, summering at Willow Point on Owasco Lake, Eliza Osborne founding the Women’s Educational and Industrial Union, her son Thomas Mott Osborne’s prison reform movement, Fort Hill Cemetery, and President McKinley assassin Leon Czolgosz’ execution at Auburn Prison.
We travel from Auburn of the early 20th century to Europe to New York City, take a train to Michigan and end up in Colorado. Dorothy and Ros were prolific letter writers, and thank goodness their families in Auburn saved their letters for Wickenden to put together so beautifully in this narrative.
Most of the book is about Dorothy and Ros’ time in Elkhead, and it reads like a grown-up version of “Little House on the Prairie.” (Remember when Mary and Laura grew up and became teachers?) The writing is so vivid, you can feel the icy cold wind and the blowing snow, and see the beautiful flowers and mountains.
Their time in Elkhead comes to an end, and the ladies do eventually find love and marriage. (You’ll have to read the book to find out who the lucky guys are.)
What I like about narrative non-fiction is that it tells a true story written in a way that is accessible and interesting to the reader, much like good fiction. Wickenden teaches narrative non-fiction writing in New York City, and she writes in such a manner that you can’t wait to turn the pages to see what happens next to these amazing ladies.
The notes, acknowledgements and bibliography at the end of the book are nearly as interesting as the book itself. Wickenden references all of the people in Auburn who assisted her, and according to her publisher Simon & Schuster’s website, she will make an appearance on Sept. 17 at the Auburn Public Theater to discuss this book.
I was happy to see that “Nothing Daunted” has been named to many must-read summer lists and is on The New York Times’ e-books best-seller list. This fascinating read is for anyone who likes a crackling good true story, and holds special interest for Auburnians. It’s also a great story of girl power and the bravery and adventurous attitude that these incredible ladies had. I give it my highest rating of five stars.

Read more: http://auburnpub.com/lifestyles/article_532ccf0e-c546-11e0-b594-001cc4c03286.html#ixzz1V6nOfpJ6

Monday, August 8, 2011

Very Bad Men by Harry Dolan

Very Bad Men by Harry Dolan
Published by Amy Einhorn Books ISBN 978-0-399-15749-3
Hardcover $25.95
I always know I will enjoy a book from the Amy Einhorn Books imprint of Putnam Books. Most of the ones I have read are by female authors- Kathryn Stockett's The Help, Sarah Blake's The Postmistress, Eleanor Brown's The Weird Sisters, and Liane Moriarty's What Alice Forgot. All of these books have strong female protagonists, which is part of the appeal for me.

The latest book from the imprint has a male protagonist- Harry Dolan's Very Bad Men. It is the second novel in the series featuring David Loogan, an editor for a mystery magazine who lives with Elizabeth, a detective, and her teenage daughter Sarah, in Michigan.

Loogan gets drawn into the case of Anthony Lark, a man who has murdered two men and is on his way to murdering another. All of the dead men were involved 17 years ago with a bank robbery that went bad, leaving a robber and a cop dead, and another cop paralyzed from the waist down.

The story is told mainly from the points of view of Loogan and Lark. Both men are interesting characters, and seeing the story from each of their perspectives makes this a much stronger book.

Senate candidate Callie Spencer, whose father is the paralyzed cop, is involved in the murders. But is she a target, a participant in the murders, or is Lark trying to protect her? Lucy Navarro, a reporter for a tabloid newspaper, is snooping around, and Loogan becomes her protector of sorts. When she gets too close to the truth and disappears, Loogan gets angry.

Dolan takes care to create fully realized characters. I particularly enjoyed his portraits of the teenagers; Elizabeth's daughter Sarah, and Nick, the teenage son and brother of two of Lark's targets, were really on the money for me.

The mystery of why Lark is killing these men is complicated and the reason really comes out of left field. I have to say I had absolutely no idea where it would end up, but it was a crazy trip getting there. If the author left clues as to what motivated Lark to kill, I did not pick them up. I found it satisfying that I really did not know where he was going until the end.

This novel is crackling good literary crime fiction; it put me in mind of Sara Paretsky's novels. I'm going to seek out the first novel in the series and anxiously await the third one.

rating 4 of 5 stars

Gone With the Wind Readalong

Erin from The Heroine's Bookshelf is sponsoring a readalong of my all-time favorite book, Gone With The Wind, and I am reveling in re-reading the book with so many others.

We read the first seven chapters and you can find the interesting discussion here.

I clearly remember reading the book on my front porch the summer I was in ninth grade. I fell in love with it, getting lost in the old South, and I found Scarlett to be a most fascinating character. You either love her or hate her, and I love her.

Margaret Mitchell goes into great detail with her characters, even the minor ones. (Scarlett's mother Ellen is my favorite.) Reading it feels like you are at the barbecue at Twelve Oaks, dining with the Tarleton twins, shy Charles Hamilton, old bachelor Frank Kennedy, all of whom fall under the spell that young Scarlettt weaves to make Ashley Hamilton jealous.

The description of the clothes and the homes are so vivid, you can picture them clearly in your mind, especially the gowns the ladies wore at the barbecue. The traditions of that day fascinated me; the girls retiring during the day for a nap was a favorite scene.

There are so many great scenes in this first section, the best perhaps being when Rhett Butler surprises Scarlett after Ashley rejects her. The fireworks between the two foreshadows more excitement to come.

Now that the first section is done, the beautiful clothes and parties from Part One will disappear as the Civil War takes center stage.

Smokin' Seventeen by Janet Evanovich

Smokin' Seventeen by Janet Evanovich
Published by Bantam ISBN 978-0-345-52768-4
Hardcover $28
It's summer and that means one thing; I'm throwing a copy of the latest Stephanie Plum novel, Smokin' Seventeen, in my beach bag for vacation reading.

Janet Evanovich has created memorable characters in this series, friends you enjoy catching up with every summer. Stephanie Plum is back tracking down skips as a bounty hunter working for her skeevy cousin Vinnie's bail bond company.

Her coworkers, efficient office manager Connie, and former streetwalker Lula are back, this time working out of an RV because their office building was blown up (something that frequently happens when Stephanie is around.)

This book is steamier than most in the series. Stephanie's on-again/off-again boyfriend, handsome  Trenton cop Joe Morelli's grandmother has put a spell on Stephanie that makes her horny. So, the reader is treated to some sexy scenes between Joe and Stephanie, and Stephanie and the man she cannot resist, devastating and dangerous bounty hunter Ranger. If you thought it was hot on the beach, wait until you read these scenes. You'll need to take a dip in the water to cool off.

A third man enters the fray when Stephanie's mother sets her up on a date with former high school football hero Dave, who enjoys breaking into Stephanie's apartment to cook delicious meals for her. What's a gal to do?

Stephanie and Lula chase down their share of skips, including an elderly man who thinks he's a vampire, a nod to the latest trend in books. They get knocked down, eat copious amounts of donuts and Cluck-in-a-Bucket chicken, cars get destroyed and Lula wears outlandish outfits.

The mysteries in these novels are not the main reason to read these books. They are the frame on which the story is hung, but it is Stephanie & Co. that keep us coming back year after year to chuckle at her and her friends (mis)adventures. I only wish that there was more of Grandma in this book; she is a hoot.

Fans of the Stephanie Plum series will be happy with this latest entry, although it is not one of the top three. I'm looking forward to seeing the movie of the first book, One For The Money, which is scheduled to be released early next year. It has a lot to live up to.

rating 3.5 of 5

This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman

This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman
Published by Harper Collins ISBN 978-0-06-202438-1
Hardcover, $24.99

I was able to relate to the characters in Helen Schulman's shattering novel, This Beautiful Life. Liz and Richard Bergamot lived in upstate New York, Ithaca, about 30 minutes from where I lived for 45 years. Richard got a fabulous offer for a job in Manhattan, doing work that he found meaningful and rewarding. The family moved to Manhattan.

Fours years ago, my husband also received a job offer, doing something meaningful and rewarding, and off we went. Unlike Liz and Richard, our children were grown and off to college, so we did not have to uproot them and raise them in Manhattan.

Jake is their 15 year-old-son, who had to leave the suburban beauty of Ithaca and navigate the urban center of Manhattan. Coco, their adopted Chinese daughter, took to Manhattan and all its charms like a duck to water. She was popular with all the "right" girls at school, and got invited to every fancy party.

Liz transitioned from working part-time teaching art at the university in Ithaca to being one of the "ladies who lunch". Richard was consumed by his job, and I loved how Liz described him as "exuding competence. He was a self-cleaning oven. And even after all these years, Liz was not immune to the power of his good looks."

The description of parenting of these children of privilege hits close to home for many parents today.
"they are both too close to their children and too far away from the ground. They are too accomplished. They have accumulated too much. They expect too much. They demand too  much. They even love their kids too much. This love is crippling in its own way."
Jake receives a video from a very young girl he met at a party. It is a pornographic video she made of herself. He doesn't know what to do, and he sends it to his friend to get his opinion. His friend passes it on, and soon it has become viral; the whole world sees it.

The life that the Bergamots have is turned upside down. Jake is suspended from his private school, and he may be prosecuted for distributing child pornography. Richard's boss forces him to lay low from his very public position because the story is all over the tabloids and they can't afford the bad publicity.

Liz withdraws into her own world, refusing to get out bed most days, glued to her laptop computer. She watches the video of the girl endlessly, and that leads her to other pornography that she can't stop watching.

Watching the family fall apart is devastating, and Schulman makes these characters so real that you ache for them. Reading it makes you think "there but for the grace of God and one bad decision go I". As parents we try to teach our children to make good decisions, and we hope that when they eventually do make a bad decision, as they all will, that it is one they can come back from.

But in today's plugged-in world, where the click of a mouse can change one's life, making a bad decision can be life-altering. Jake is a good kid, he never would have sent that video out into the world to hurt the young girl, yet that is what happened and it nearly destroys his family.

I cried a few times reading this novel, no more so than when Jake tells his dad that he screwed up again, and Richard says, "I'm your father. I'm always on your side." This is a good family, and how they try to live with what happened is something every parent can relate to, although we hope to never be tested as the Bergamots were.

This book takes you on an emotional, heart-rending journey, one that will make you think about the fragility of the life you have.

rating 4 of 5 stars